Fate of Gundia hydel power project hangs in balance

KPCL uncertain about eco-clearance from Centre

Fate of Gundia hydel power project hangs in balance

After much debate, protests and appeals, the fate of Gundia hydroelectric project, proposed in Hassan/Dakshina Kannada districts and expected to generate 400 megawatt of electricity, hangs in balance.

Top officials in the energy department say the State government has given up hope on the project which was embarked upon in 2008. According to the officials, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is unlikely to approve the project, after the two committees on Western Ghats, headed by Madhav Gadgil and K Kasturirangan, either suggested to scrap the project or exercise caution before giving the project its green signal.

The Gundia project was proposed with an ultimate installed capacity of generating no less than 1,002 Million Units of energy every year. While the techno-economic clearance was received from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) on April 2008, the MoEF put a spanner in the works, on account of environment concerns and protests against the project.

As the Kasturirangan report has recommended that 37 per cent of the Western Ghats be protected, the project will now have to be either scaled down or completely scrapped. Sources in the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL), the nodal agency to embark upon the project, said that environment concerns about Western Ghats had clouded the project so much that it was unlikely to be permitted. It is said that reports on Western Ghats even recommended that permission be denied for mini-hydel projects. “Keeping this in mind,” a KPCL official said, “Gundia is dead and buried.”

When contacted on Monday, KPCL Managing Director M R Kamble treaded a fine line: “After submitting our report to the MoEF, we have not heard from them. We are ready to go either way,” he explained. “If the MoEF clears it, we will pursue it. If it does not, we will scrap it. The ball is in their court now.” The KPCL sent its report to the MoEF around 10 months ago.

The Gundia project was to cost about Rs 1,333 crore and scheduled to be set up in two phases. It may be recalled that as per the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report, the Gundia project falls in an area classified as Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ 1). The WGEEP has recommended that no large storage dams be permitted in ESZ 1.

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